On May 2, 2012, the “1 Year After Bin Laden” survey asked the following question:
Since Usama Bin Laden’s death, has there been more …?
- Conflict and competition between al Qaeda leaders and affiliates over strategic direction, or
- Unity between al Qaeda leaders and affiliates seeking to exploit recent uprisings
I found this question particularly interesting in light of the recent debate over the Benghazi attacks. Some have asserted the attacks were the work of “al Qaeda”. Other reports suggest the death of U.S. Ambassador Stevens as the work of an “al Qaeda affiliate”. Yet others say the Consulate attack came from an emerging local militant group “Ansar al Sharia“.
If one were to believe the attack were the work of a centrally directed al Qaeda, then I would assume there would be more unity between al Qaeda leaders than conflict. Likewise, a sense of unity in terms of central direction may mesh with an AQIM link to the Benghazi Consulate attack. However, the notion of unity appears undermined by the recent revelations that Ansar al Din maybe breaking with AQIM, while the MNLA also takes its own course in the Sahel. Meanwhile, General Ham, the U.S. AFRICOM commander, has noted that AQIM has become a central node for coordination with Boko Haram in Nigeria. It appears there are linkages between AQAP and al Shabaab in the Horn of Africa. But for AQAP in Yemen, seen by many as being the strongest AQ affiliate, are they really coordinating their operations with AQIM, AQ in Iraq or jihadi groups amongst the Syrian uprising? Probably not. And what about Zawahiri? It appears the crowd doesn’t believe he is in charge of al Qaeda globally the way Bin Laden was. So which is it, more “Unity” or ”Conflict” amongst AQ members after the death of Bin Laden?
In total, 197 respondents cast their opinions on this question and the vast majority believe al Qaeda’s members are more in conflict (77%) than in unity (23%) after the death of their founder. The below graph shows the breakout of raw votes by professional group. Most all professional groups voted in roughly the same proportions as the total. However, military voters were more likely than other large sample size groups to believe AQ was showing ‘unity’ after Bin Laden’s death. Meanwhile, ‘Private Sector’ voters were the least likely to believe AQ is cohesive – across most all questions ‘Private Sector’ voters appear to believe AQ is in a state of disarray.
The below table shows a breakdown of the votes based on different characteristics. I highlighted in green those results reflecting a larger than average selection of ‘Conflict’ while highlighting in yellow those demographic breakdowns that chose ‘Unity’ at a higher rate than other groups. Overall,
- ‘Private Sector’ and ‘Government – Non Military’ selected ‘Conflict’ at higher rates.
- All information sources appear to reflect a proportion similar to the overall average. There was no apparent lean by ‘Social Media’ voters for this question.
- Those ‘Residing Outside the U.S.’ were the group most likely to select AQ has had more ‘unity’. While still only at a rate of 33%, it is interesting that those outside the U.S. may believe AQ is more organized.
Lastly, if you are confused by the term “al Qaeda” or what “al Qaeda linkages mean”, you are not alone. The media and your Congressmen don’t know either. For a good laugh and to enjoy the confusion, watch this clip between Anderson Cooper and Congressman Rohrabacher. Absolutely baffling! Another one of my favorite terms – “Radical Islamic Threat” – is in here.